September 6th, 2021

Joe Caslin artwork transforms Ulster Museum following participant led programme

A 25-metre art installation designed by renowned artist and activist Joe Caslin has been revealed on the exterior of the Ulster Museum, inspired by the contributions of Making the Future participants. 

Counterpart is a powerful new contribution to the city’s street art collection and depicts aspects of society, life and culture in Northern Ireland, brought to life on an unavoidable scale to entice viewers to reflect on Northern Ireland's shared future. 

Throughout the summer, members of the public had the opportunity to work alongside Caslin to explore the world of street art and examine how political division is represented in contemporary works.

Inspired by their contributions, Joe has developed a site-specific artwork for the Ulster Museum that has transformed the exterior of the building and given a voice to the people. It’s a message that speaks to the core value of the Making the Future project — a project facilitating conversations about the past, present and future in Northern Ireland. 

Commenting on the final piece, street artist and activist, Joe Caslin, said: “Working with Nerve Centre, Ulster Museum and the Counterpart project participants was a truly worthwhile and eye-opening experience. 

"All of my work begins with research so having the opportunity to share my world and understanding of art with others, who in turn shared their experiences with me, was particularly meaningful. The values of the project appeal to my values as the goal here is to create debate and conversation.

“It is important that social issues are not pushed to the periphery, but as my works are biodegradable, they are only accessible for a limited time, so having the support of recognised landmarks to amplify them is really important. 

"Ulster Museum is a particularly fitting location to this project – not only is it a treasure house to stories of the past and the present, but as a building it blends traditional and contemporary design elements too, all appealing to the theme of the piece as we question what life in Northern Ireland might be in the future.”

Participants from across Northern Ireland took part in the Counterpart programme over the summer to help inform the final piece of art. A workshop with Professor Bill Rolston and Adam Turkington helped examine the history of murals and street art in Northern Ireland. A street art tour followed looking at contemporary artworks around Belfast and how the medium has evolved over the years. 

Joe then led a series of workshops with groups in north Belfast and at the Ulster Museum, offering an insight into his creative practice and helping participants to bring forward some of the issues and themes they felt were important in terms of their heritage, their culture and identity. 

A photography workshop led by acclaimed artist Ruth Medjber in the Ulster Museum brought participants together again to help shape and inform the direction of the final artwork. Taking inspiration from the group, Joe's final piece features an  amalgamation of body parts from five different people involved in the programme, to represent the varied nature of society here. 

Many Counterpart project participants, including Barra Doherty, whose likeness features in the artwork, had the opportunity to contribute their own ideas, artistic skills and talent to the mural.

Barra said: “It feels like I’m part of something bigger. I got to meet new people through the workshops and have discussions with people from different walks of life which was such a great experience. The sessions were an extremely collaborative experience between us and Joe. 

"He took our ideas on board as inspiration and what we have now is such a significant piece of work and I am excited to see it evoke different thoughts in people’s minds as they look up while walking past.”

Access to Ulster Museum’s grounds to visit is free. Access to indoor exhibitions is free but online booking at nmni.com is advised. 

Culture Lab

Project Contacts

Danielle Carragher

Community Engagement Officer at National Museums NI

Shauna McGowan

Community Engagement Officer at National Museums NI

Niamh Baker

Curator at National Museums NI

028 9039 5285

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Joe Caslin artwork transforms Ulster Museum following participant led programme
Joe Caslin artwork transforms Ulster Museum following participant led programme
Joe Caslin artwork transforms Ulster Museum following participant led programme
Joe Caslin artwork transforms Ulster Museum following participant led programme
Joe Caslin artwork transforms Ulster Museum following participant led programme

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